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By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Posted: 06/20/14, 5:42 PM PDT | Updated: 43 mins ago

Job growth dipped sharply in California last month but the state’s unemployment rate hit its lowest level since August 2008.

Last month’s unemployment rate of 7.6 percent was lower than 7.8 percent in April and well below the year-ago rate of 9 percent, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday.

California employers added 18,300 jobs in May. That landed well below the previous month’s gain of 56,100, but the state is now just 1,800 jobs shy of its July 2007 pre-recession peak of 15,449,800 jobs. California has added a total of 1,327,000 jobs since the recovery began in February 2010.

“We came pretty close to our pre-recession peak level of employment and I think sometime this year — probably in the next couple of months — we’ll match and exceed those numbers,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “This is a very good report. Unemployment rates for the state and local economies have declined significantly from a year ago.”

California added 340,200 jobs over the year, a 2.3 percent gain that was eclipsed only by Texas which added 383,100 jobs. Florida ranked third with 218,800 jobs.

The trend of slowing job growth but falling unemployment was also seen locally last month.

Los Angeles County added 2,400 jobs in May compared with the 30,000 that were added in April. But the region’s unemployment rate still edged down to 8.2 percent in May compared with 8.3 percent the previous month and 10 percent a year earlier.

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